Archive for the ‘Work’ Category

If You Quit, You Can’t Blame God

Sunday, October 23rd, 2011

We all feel tempted to quit sometimes. Whether they are related to relationships, parenting, or work, there are moments in life when we simply want to throw up our arms in frustration and give up. And, sometimes, we want to blame God. After all, God allowed circumstances to be so hard. Obviously, God doesn’t want us to accomplish whatever it is we are trying to accomplish. Otherwise, the road wouldn’t be so full of potholes and mountains.

I recently had the pleasure of attending the premiere performance of “Present Company Excluded,” a play written by Doug Foresta. Based on the life of Herbert Roth, it tells of a young Jewish boy living in Roth, Germany in the years leading up to World War II. As Roth prepares for his Bar Mitzvah, he questions everything about God. Why doesn’t God talk to him the way he talked to Abraham? Why did God allow his mother to die? Why is God allowing his father’s business to fail and his friends to ignore him simply because they are Jewish?

Towards the end of the play, his step-mother, who Roth wants nothing to do with, is encouraging him to come with her to apply for a visa to leave Germany and go to America. His father has already failed in this task and Roth sees no point to trying again. He has resigned himself to his fate and feels that God is keeping them in Germany. His step-mother tells him that they have to keep trying, because “If you quit, you can’t blame God.”

There is a great deal of truth to that statement. Indeed, it can be very difficult to discern what God wants from us in life. There are certainly times when it seems every door is being slammed against us. It seems that there is no point in continuing and that God must want us to take a different path. Sometimes, He does.

But if that is the case, then the window will open. Other opportunities and circumstances will come our way. If we continue to pray, however, and trust that God is with us, and no other paths open up to us, then we have no reason to quit the road we are on. Yes, it may seem impossibly hard and the outcome uncertain, but we need to keep trying. We need to keep getting up every morning and do our best and leave the rest to God.

God is the one ultimately in charge. I love the statement by Blessed Mother Teresa, “God doesn’t call us to be successful, only faithful.” Our success or failure is determined only by God. He has His reasons for having us on the road we are on. The roadblocks, too, are there for a reason. Although, often it is only in looking back that we can appreciate them. As Roth stated in the play, his mother dying led to his hated step-mother joining the family. She would be the person who would ultimately save all of their lives. God does work in mysterious ways.

Yes, circumstances are hard. But, if we quit, we need to own it. If we stop trying, we can’t blame God and say that it is His fault that things didn’t work out.

Vocations

Monday, August 8th, 2011

Guest post by Hrvoje Butkovic

When I was in the final year of high school, the school governing body invited several spokespersons from academia and industry to tell us about what lay ahead. For most of us it was a time of excitement, anxiety and turmoil. In less than a year, we would forever leave the protective nest of the schooling system, where our future was reliably if frustratingly plotted for us, to chart our own course ahead. It was a huge step. We were grateful for any guidance that we could receive.

Most of the speakers described the careers that were available in their field, why we should choose them, what was great about them. A few didn’t represent a particular vocation, but spoke to us more generally about what made a winning working professional, company or nation, and how to succeed.

The common theme of all these talks was the importance of material success. It was the assumed goal behind choosing a career. Two other considerations also featured prominently enough – choosing what one loved to do and what one was good at doing. The ideal career was one that combined one’s talents and aspirations with income-generating ability to satisfy one’s yearnings for both material and emotional fulfilment.

Taking their advice to heart led me to computer programming. It wasn’t a difficult choice. I loved working with computers ever since I was introduced to them in primary school. Getting paid for it sounded almost too good to be true. This delightful state of affairs effectively summed up the first five years of my professional life as a developer of business software.

Towards the end of this period, my perspective on life began to shift. I became preoccupied with the big questions in life, including that of the purpose behind it. Relatively suddenly it became very important to know why I was here, what it was that I was supposed to accomplish with my life. I felt that there was a larger picture to consider than what I could discern from my limited perspective. I became desperate to uncover it.

The purpose that I discovered initially was that of a healer, but not in the medical sense of the word. Rather, I understood it to refer to people’s beliefs and attitudes, and how those translated into goals and values. My purpose, as I understood it, was to help people improve these aspects of their lives so that they could realise their fullest potential.

That was almost seven years ago. I’ve since refined my understanding of that purpose to one that could best be described as a healer of society. It contains the original formulation – one cannot heal the society without healing the individuals who comprise it – but extends beyond it to consider how we relate to each other and the environment on the largest scale.

This level of insight and understanding exposed a whole new dimension of existence that I was not aware of before. The career deliberation that I had engaged in in my youth felt positively inadequate. Not that it was mistaken, but superficial. It arrived at an answer that I still believe was right for me, but without really knowing or even considering why.

Life purpose doesn’t map neatly into existing job categories. There is no profession for healer of society. Instead, there are many, each contributing a skill or an avenue of change that, when combined, can trigger social renaissance.

Oddly enough, software development has had a large part to play in this. I say oddly because a computer programmer is perhaps the last person one would expect to have social skills. We hide in our offices and cubicles so that we don’t have to deal with people with all their moods and problems. For us, computers are so much more predictable and easier to grapple with. Yet it was precisely this emphasis on structured logical thinking, and more importantly, modelling, that defined my approach to discovering how to live. It came at a price. Pondering life makes it difficult to immerse oneself in the here and now, but it also makes it easier to communicate what one finds to others.

The skills that I had acquired as a software developer were instrumental in my personal transformation. This was the necessary first step before social transformation could be fruitfully attempted. Once it had reached a milestone, my interest in computers started to wane. Programming was still fun, but it just didn’t seem all that important anymore. There were other callings vying for my attention.

One was writing. Now that I think about it, I’ve had sporadic interest in it ever since primary school. It became a hobby almost ten years ago, culminating in the publication of my first book in 2009.

Another was coursework. Unlike programming and writing, this one wasn’t even on the radar until just over a year ago, when I started facilitating workshops on the subject matter of my second book.

There was also experimenting with small-scale farming and composting and, more recently, catering. All of these were fuelled by my yearning for a more sustainable and fulfilling lifestyle. The last of these I’m in the process of converting into a business. Its goal is to popularise a more balanced approach to eating, one that pays as much heed to health and environmental concerns as the currently popular one does to affordability and taste.

No doubt, there will be other vocations to capture my attention in the years to come.

From the customary career-oriented perspective, dabbling in so many diverse professions may look like nothing more than a severe case of confusion and indecision. When examined with the stated life purpose in mind, however, a common thread can be seen running through them all.

Each of them is a tool that can be used to help realise my life purpose. Each is preoccupied with communicating an alternative approach to living. With computer programming, it is about making the information content better structured and easier to grasp. With writing and coursework, it is about employing media well suited to its communication. And with catering, it is about making the better alternative so easily accessible that one no longer has a good reason to discard it.

This is not the inherent purpose of these professions; each one can be used with entirely different goals in mind. It is simply the purpose that I’ve put them to. It is for this reason that labels ‘writer’, ‘chef’ and ‘course facilitator’ are as misleading as ‘computer programmer’. They confuse the tools with the life calling in whose service they have been employed.

Looking back at my last year of high school now reveals severe deficiencies in the guidance that I received. It was useful as far as the initial career choice was concerned, but failed to engage the subject matter in any depth. By being silent on the question of life purpose, it gave the impression that there was no more wisdom to be found than what was already contained in the norms of our culture.

This omission has had a definitive impact on the professional lives of many of my work colleagues. When their youthful fascination with computers lost its grip to make room for other pursuits, they were not sure where else to turn. Most tried to rekindle the earlier passion by making changes to their work environment, or by looking for it in an entirely different field. The question of life purpose generally remained unasked, and if asked, marginalised and unexplored.

Sometimes I wonder what advice I would have to offer an assembly of high school students. Not a lot can be said in one address. Not much more can be tackled in short weekly guidance sessions that I attended during high school. Uncovering and living one’s purpose requires lifelong commitment. It would be naive to expect to do this in a few guidance sessions, and downright silly in a single speaking engagement.

What can be done in the little time that we have is to alert our children to the fact that there is such a thing as individual life purpose, and that those who have discovered it derive tremendous satisfaction from living it. Furthermore, some societies, particularly aborigine or tribal ones, attribute such importance to it that they have been structured around it. Their culture is steeped in myths that talk about it and customs and traditions that encourage and guide their youth on this journey. It is a journey that leads to self-actualisation, and through it to cultural renewal.

Without the social support structure, the message might not succeed at catching the youngsters’ attention. What it can still do, however, is plant itself as a seed inside their consciousness, to sprout and blossom once they are sufficiently dissatisfied with the cultural norms within which they were raised. The idea of life purpose will give them an alternative, more constructive way of handling the midlife crisis. Instead of trying to overcome it to continue living as before, they can recognize it as an invitation to undertake a journey of self-discovery. Only now, they will have the requisite life experience to appreciate what living a life of purpose has to offer, and the wisdom and courage to heed its call.

Hrvoje Butkovic is the author of the book A Glimpse of Another World and Living Deliberately. For more information, please visit http://fluffygroovy.com.

Finding God in the Housework

Sunday, July 3rd, 2011

I do not enjoy housework. Not even a little bit. Just yesterday I was telling the young lady who lives next door to me that I wished I had a magic wand that I could simply wave and have a clean house! Alas, that is not the case and I do have to put things away and do the dishes and the laundry and clean the bathrooms and mop the floor and the list goes on and on in a seemingly never-ending cycle. This, despite the fact that my standards for cleanliness are not all that high. It’s really been bugging me lately. There are so many other things that I would much rather be doing with that time.

In the midst of my aggravation, what message did God send me regarding this? An email reminding me that housework is an opportunity to encounter God.
And, so it is. Every moment of our lives, if offered to God and done to serve Him, is holy. That includes the time spent with the laundry or scrubbing the floor.

First of all, we do these things because they are part of our vocation and one of our primary duties on this earth is to serve God by living our vocation to the best of our abilities. Secondly, we do our housework to serve those we love – so that they may have clean dishes and clean clothes and a healthy environment to live in. It may not seem that way as we are struggling to get it done, but doing the housework is actually an act of love.

The time spent on household chores can also offer a time to pray. These menial tasks usually do not require a great deal of brain power to accomplish. There are two ways to make them more meaningful. The first is to truly pay attention to them. Get off the auto-pilot and actually focus on the task at hand. Instead of simply rushing to get through them, live in the moment. Be thankful for the people you are doing these tasks for. Appreciate the fact that you have the physical ability to complete these chores.

Second, the time can be used to say the Rosary or some other memorized prayer or to simply talk to God. I would be willing to venture that when you are performing your household tasks your mind is usually elsewhere anyway – perhaps replaying conversations, turning over worries, or making future plans. Why not turn one’s mind toward God? Prayer and work can go hand in hand. While there are certainly times when we need to focus on one or the other more exclusively, manual labor and mental prayer are able to co-exist quite nicely.

I needed the gentle reminder that God gave me that my housework has value that goes beyond the short-term results. The dishes I washed today will once again be dirty tomorrow. The dog will shed again and somebody will definitely spill something on the floor that I mopped. The clean clothes will on again be dirty. But, if I do these tasks with a loving, prayerful heart rather than a grudging, complaining one, they will acquire a much deeper purpose. Perhaps, someday, I will even come to look forward to them!

There is More than One Way to Be a Good Mom

Sunday, February 6th, 2011

The word vocation means a “call.” In Catholic circles, it refers to a call from God. Many women receive a call from God to motherhood. It is a noble call, a challenging call, a call that will frequently bring a woman to her personal limits and to her knees in prayer. Yet, it has immense rewards. Those of us who have been called to this life should be both thankful for and humbled by it.

Given that it is such a hard job, motherhood should be supported by all of us, in all its forms. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. While the outside world may be very supportive of working mothers, in Catholic circles, it is often seen as a “lesser” choice.

If a mother “needs” to work, then it is acceptable, but even then I’ve heard other mothers say that they feel sorry for these mothers. The woman who chooses to work? She is frequently portrayed as selfish and not putting her family first. It is as if there is one version of motherhood that is held up as the ideal – the stay-at-home totally dedicated mother (if you managed to nurse exclusively for at least a year, homeschool your children, and have four or more children, you get extra points) – and all the others fall a little short.

As a homeschooling stay-at-home mother, I am begging people to reconsider that position. I believe that I have been called to my current way of life for this season of my life. It certainly wasn’t in the life plan that I had for myself. Rather, God led me here. I am very fortunate to be able to work part-time from home. My situation was different in my past, and it may be different in my future. I hope to always do what God wants from me.

Is it then possible to believe that others are called to different forms of motherhood? I would argue that it is. Learning about St. Gianna Beretta Molla (1922-1962) expanded my own understanding of the vocation of motherhood. She is a patron saint of working mothers. She was an accomplished physician who loved her work. She truly felt called by God to be a doctor. She continued to maintain her own practice while having three small children.

St. Gianna would ultimately give up her own life so that her 4th child might live. That child followed in her mother’s footsteps and became a doctor herself. On the subject of vocation, St. Gianna wrote “What is a vocation? It is a gift from God, so it comes from God. If it is a gift from God, our concern must be to know God’s will. We must enter that path: If God wants, when God wants, how God wants.” God called St. Gianna to be both doctor and mother. She served God completely in both roles.

On a related note, Pope Benedict XVI recently stated that “it is necessary to concretely support motherhood, including guaranteeing professional women the possibility of balancing family and work. Too often, in fact, women are put in the position of having to choose between the two.” He encouraged governments to support maternity rights, including child-care centers.

God calls mothers to different forms of motherhood. Women should always pray to do God’s will in their lives. At the same time, all mothers should be supported and encouraged in their vocation, whether that vocation involves being a stay-at-home homeschooling mom, working full-time outside the home or any of the variations in-between. There is no one right way to be a mother. The only right way is what God is calling a mother to do at a given moment of her life.

Setting Realistic Goals

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

I am a very task oriented person. I know not everyone shares my joy in making to-do lists and then crossing things off of them once they are accomplished, but for me this is one of the simple pleasures in life. Certainly, I wish that there weren’t quite so many things on the to-do lists to start with, but the pure bliss of getting to make big lines through them once they are done almost makes up for it. Truthfully, most of the things on my to-do lists are mundane. Things like make a doctor’s appointment, take the car in for service, renew a prescription, do the laundry, and bag the trash. I keep a separate work-related one so that when I take out my computer, I know what I need to focus on. Thankfully, I’m no longer in the sleep-deprived haze of early motherhood when I actually had to write “start the dishwasher” on my to-do list or else it wouldn’t get done. Still, my memory is not good and I have too many things to juggle. Without the lists, way too many things would simply drift away, never to be thought of again.

What do to-do lists have to do with setting goals? To-do lists are made up of small doable tasks. They are action items. Do the thing and you get to scratch it off the list. It may go back on the list tomorrow, but for this day the mission has been accomplished. When people make goals (myself included), it is easy to think big. This is good. It is wonderful to dream. This is where many people get stuck. They can see where they want to be and they can see where they are now. What they don’t know is how to get there. It’s easy to get discouraged – to look at the dream and to throw in the towel. It is so far away. How could I ever get there? What’s the point? At these moments, it is important to note that the road from point A to point B is not one giant step. It is made up of smaller steps, actions that can be placed on a to-do list and accomplished one day at a time.

For example, my Bible study friends and I were all talking about how we would like to rid our homes of clutter. This is a big job. One look around my house (or my friends’ houses) and it would be easy to give up. However, we have started a plan. One of my friends sends out a Facebook message to each of us with our task for the day. These tasks are supposed to take about fifteen minutes a day. That’s doable. It’s currently an item on my actual to-do list – “Clean 15 minutes.” When it is done for that day, it is crossed off. I feel like I have accomplished my goal for the day and my house is slowly getting cleaner. Will my house ever be entirely clutter-free? Probably not, but I will be a lot closer than if I had done nothing.

This process can be applied to almost everything – even our spiritual lives. In this case, the goal is heaven. That’s a big goal. We can take a look at our lives and easily get discouraged. However, we don’t need to look at the rest of our lives in one fell swoop. We only need to worry about today. What are some things we can add to our daily to-do list to help us make spiritual progress? Have you always wanted to read the Bible, but can never seem to squeeze it in? Perhaps you could put “read Bible for 5 minutes” on your to-do list. Everyone has five minutes. Start small. You can always add to it. Maybe you have always wanted to say the rosary, but never seem to get to it. Start with one decade. Go ahead – put “say one decade of the rosary” on your to-do list. Perhaps you would like to do more to help the poor? On the to-do list could be “pick out 5 food items to donate to a local food pantry” or “Take three items out of closet that no longer fit and donate them.” These are small things, yes. They won’t change the world, but they will be a start. As one becomes accustomed to doing these things regularly, it will be easier to add other things on. You will find you have more time for prayer and spiritual reading. You will find more ways to help the poor. Make small goals that lead to bigger ones. Start walking the road. If you miss a day, start again the next. You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

Book Review: Things Seen and Unseen

Monday, September 20th, 2010

Things Seen and Unseen: A Catholic Theologian’s Notebook
by Lawrence S. Cunningham
Notre Dame: Sorin Books, 2010

One of the key features of writing a book review is to determine a book’s purpose and whether the author achieved it. As the title states, “Things Seen and Unseen” by Lawrence S. Cunningham, a longtime theology professor at Notre Dame, is a notebook – it is a collection of random thoughts on readings and life as a theologian. In reading it, I felt a bit like I was reading a collection of blog posts. As a blogger myself, I can appreciate the value in that. In his introduction, Cunningham quotes what Karl Rahner said about his life as a Jesuit theologian, “I did not lead a life. I worked, wrote, taught, tried to do my duty and earn a living. I tried this ordinary way of serving God.” Cunningham states that this book offers slices from his own ordinary way. In that, he has succeeded.

“Things Seen and Unseen” will appeal most to other theologians. These are short reflections, often referring to other theologians, religious works, etc. The text presumes a certain familiarity with them. One can certainly appreciate the text and the ideas without this knowledge, but one will be missing the fullness of it.

Cunningham certainly offers much food for thought. In these short commentaries, he touches on some wonderful quotes and reflects on them. He comments on public events, changes in life, and the world around him. Like every single one of us, he is attempting to figure out this gift of life. He certainly does not pretend to have all the answers and in many things he is still struggling, but there is much to be learned from his wisdom and experience.

One section that I greatly appreciated was on what it means to be a scholar, to take one’s studies seriously, especially the study of God. “The brute fact is that the only way to become a scholar and to love its life is to sit down and study as a solitary act. Until one does that, he or she has no right to prattle on before folks without having first studied. The psalmist gets it right in the opening of the Psalter: ‘their delight is in the law of the Lord and on his law they meditate day and night’ – that is the counterpoint to those who ’sit in the seat of the scoffers.’ The wise man knows where to plant his bottom!”

Cunningham writes that he hoped in his teaching to instill the “love of learning and a desire for God” in his students. “Things Seen and Unseen” is one more way for him to achieve that goal.

The Paradox of Prayer and Time

Sunday, July 18th, 2010

Say the rosary? I can barely squeeze in a “Hail Mary.” Read scripture? I’d like to, but I never get to sit down. Go to daily Mass? It would be nice, but you have got to be kidding. People give many reasons for not praying more. Close to the top of the list is the complaint that “I simply don’t have time.” There are so many other important things vying for our attention. There are children and spouses and parents who need us to help them. There are household chores to complete and work to be done. The to-do list is long and the hours are short. The first thing women do when the demands of the world become too much is cut out time for themselves. Unfortunately, this often includes time for God. We know we should spend more time in prayer, but it is often the first thing to go.

There is a line from the poem that says “I had so much to do, I had to take time to pray.” I have definitely found this to be true in my own life. Days in which I don’t make that time first thing in the morning to connect with God do not go well. I have long known that my relationships with others suffer when I don’t put my relationship with God first. I am much more easily aggravated and lack the patience I should have.

Recently, I have come to the understanding that my ability to be productive depends on my taking that time to pray as well. I honestly do wish that I could attend Mass every day. I look back at the times in my life when I was able to do that and I truly treasure them. Attending Mass and receiving the Eucharist always give me strength and peace. As it is, I try to attend Mass on Saturday mornings. Sometimes, I’m busy with a long list of chores around the house and I have a mental debate with myself over whether I should go or not. I have found, without fail, that those are the days I need to attend Mass most. Once I have turned over that one hour out of my day (including travel time) over to God, I find that he allows me to make the most out of the time I have left. I usually accomplish all I need to and more. On the rare occasions that my to-do list doesn’t get done, I am left with a feeling of acceptance that I accomplished what I needed to. The other things can wait.

The past week, my children were at day camp at a local church. I love my children dearly and I treasure my time with them, but one of the realities of being a homeschooling mom is that time for oneself is severely limited. This week, I was given the gift of twenty-five hours of alone time, and was determined to make the most of them. I had a number of projects I wanted to complete. I also had the opportunity to attend Mass at the church after I dropped them off each morning. It was a little bit of a sacrifice to give up that precious time, but it was a sacrifice well-rewarded. Not only did I get the spiritual benefit of attending Mass, but the time I had left was hugely productive. I got so much done. I know God was helping my projects along.

This is the paradox of prayer. The more time we spend with God, the more he allows us to make use of the time left in our day. It works every time. I invite you to give it a try.

The Fourth Servant

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

In Bible Study this week, we were studying the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-29). Before going away on a long journey, a master calls in three servants. To one he gives five talents; to another, two; to a third, one – to each according to his ability. Much later, the master returns and asks for an accounting. The one with five has managed to accrue ten. The one with two now has four, but the one with only one had gone and buried his talent. Therefore, it didn’t grow and he only had one to give to his master upon his return. The master was very pleased with the first two servants who had utilized their gifts and made more. The third servant he treated with contempt: “You wicked, lazy servant!” The master then took that one talent from him and gave it to the one who had ten.

The point of this parable is pretty obvious. Even a child would tell you that it means we are supposed to use the gifts that God gives us. He will hold us accountable for what we do with them. It seems rather straightforward. Use our gifts well and they will multiply. Ignore them and they will stagnate. What happens when this doesn’t go according to plan, however?

As one of my friends pointed out, the story needs a fourth servant. The fourth servant is given his talents and he (or in our case, she) goes out and tries to do all she can with her talents. And she fails, repeatedly. Nothing multiplies. Every effort comes up short. In an economic comparison, she invests all she has in the stock market and the stock market has crashed. When the master returns, she has little to show for her efforts, except a bucketload of tears of frustration. As my friend said this. I nodded enthusiastically. Yes, this is where I fall in this parable. I imagine many other people feel this way as well.

Sometimes, life is so hard. We pray to do God’s will and try to do it, and yet we seem to come up empty. The conventional wisdom is that if you are failing, you aren’t doing what God wants you to do – that if you are doing God’s will, you will meet with success. But what if you believe you actually are doing what God wants you to do? Where do we fall in the parable? We are not the servant who buried his gifts. We tried all we could. Did the servants who doubled their talents actually struggle in the process? Did they fall down repeatedly before achieving success? Does the parable just not tell that side of the story? That thought gives me some hope.

Our parable isn’t done being written yet. Maybe God has some plan we just can’t see. Maybe our work, our talents, is bearing some fruit we are unaware of. Maybe we are right where we are supposed to be. All we can do is keep trying. If we are truly doing God’s will, then we are where we belong. I am reminded of Mother Teresa’s statement: “We are not called to be successful, only faithful.” We are the fourth servant. I have to believe the Master will reward us in the end.

Unfulfilled Desires

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

At Bible Study this week, my friends and I were discussing “passions” – those things that we feel strongly about. According to Quentin Hakenewerth, S.M., “a passion is emotional energy which is attached to some goal or object. Passions help us become lively and resourceful persons.” However, we need to attach this energy to something that is worthwhile. “Saint John gives us three criteria for recognizing passions which are harmful and ego-centered: those which 1) pursue pleasure for its own sake; 2) crave possessions for their own sake; 3) covet status, titles, or rank to build up our image in the eyes of others (cf. 1 Jn 2:16).” On the other hand, one can never be too passionate about those things that come from God – “love, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (cf. Gal 5:22-24).

Everyone has something that gets their inner fires burning, and thankfully, these things generally coincide with gifts that have been bestowed upon them from God. The combination of our talents and our passions is the fuel which keeps us going in life. It is the impetus for civilization and relationships and contributions to society. The women whom I am lucky to call friends are all passionate people, yet when we got to the question “Describe a passion you have, for example, a desire to achieve some goal or work on a particular project which gives you lots of energy. What can you do to develop this passion?” the room became eerily silent. We are all mothers, and homeschooling mothers at that. There are so many things we would like to do, some desires admittedly more noble than others, yet they are squashed by a lack of time. There is only so much “emotional energy” that one can muster after a full day of parenting. Even when the energy is there, the time and opportunity are not.

It is true – we mothers do have ample opportunity to practice things like love, patience, kindness, generosity, and self-control. Motherhood is a noble pursuit. I know some women who were truly made to be mothers. I, however, am not one of them. I love my children with all my heart and do all I can for them. They were given to me by God and I treasure the gift and acknowledge the responsibility. I was called to homeschool, despite my initial reluctance. It was definitely the right decision for our family. I’m trying to be the very best mom I can be. I know that I am lucky to have this opportunity. Yet, I am more than that. I am more than the person who takes care of the kids and cleans the house (and I admit, I don’t do that chore particularly well). God gave me other gifts. I was also blessed with the opportunity to obtain an advanced education.

Like my friends, I do try to make use of my passions and talents to contribute to the world at large. It is always in small doses, however. I’ve had older mothers assure me that the day will come when I will get the opportunity to make more use of my gifts. That may be true, or it may not. There is no guarantee that I will live to see that day. Even if I do, there may very well be other people who will need my time and attention – sick parents or caring for grandchildren, for example. The future is a great unknown. All I have is today and the circumstances I find myself in. The unfulfilled desires are frustrating. I sometimes wonder why God made me, what my purpose is in the big scheme of things. I have to trust that he knows better than I do my reason for being here. All I can do is keep going, praying and trying to do the best I can with the time I have. Another wise woman at Bible Study (I told you I was lucky to be among these women!) reminded us all of the importance of acceptance. I need to work on that. I need to be happy where I am and let God take care of the restlessness in my heart.

Book Review: “It’s a Wonderful (Imperfect) Life”

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

It’s A Wonderful Imperfect Life: Daily Encouragement for Women Who Strive Too Hard to Make It Just Right
By Joan C. Webb
Ventura, CA: Regal, 2009

If I had the money, I would buy a copy of “It’s a Wonderful (Imperfect) Life: Devotional Readings for Women Who Strive Too Hard to Make It Just Right” by Joan C. Webb for every woman that I know. We all try so hard to do it all and get so down on ourselves when we discover that simply isn’t possible. Webb offers reassuring words based on scripture and rooted in her own experience to tell us that it is all OK. It is alright to let go of some of the pressure that we put on ourselves.

The 163 one-page devotions are divided into sections focusing on relationships, emotions, bodies, life-work, service, churches, culture, dreams and spirituality. If one particular area is troubling you, you can focus on just that section, or you can read it cover to cover as I did. Each page has something worthwhile to offer. For example, Devotion #1, “Smiling Here,” Webb invites us to recall a time we made a blunder and to laugh about it! As she reminds us, “I goofed. No big deal! It doesn’t make me less valuable.” In Devotion #30, “You Mad at Me?” Webb challenges us to stop taking on other’s moods. Women tend to feel that we are the reason someone else is upset or to feel that we must cure it. “The next time a loved one is in a bad mood and you feel the urge to ‘take it on,’ step back emotionally and ask God for wisdom.” Devotion #151, “Management Contract with God,” reminds us to turn over control of our lives to God. “Working for our ultimate good, He counsels us how to heal past damage, overcome self-defeating habits and experience contentment as we trust him for the future.”

“It’s a Wonderful (Imperfect) Life” has much to offer for any Christian woman trying to do it all. I think it would take a lifetime to learn all these lessons, and even Webb admits she is still working on them, but the ability to pick up this book, take a deep breath, and stop and reflect and let go for a little bit is a great gift!